ADHD News and Treatment

/ March 30th, 2011/ Posted in Mental Health / No Comments »

Dealing with Distractions and Overreactions

More than five million American children and teens have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, a condition that makes it difficult – if not impossible – to focus and complete tasks. When Katherine Ellison found herself yelling at her son constantly to shut up, she didn’t know that he had ADHD, nor that she had it too. Together, they embarked on a year-long quest to understand the disorder, investigating and trying different treatments. Ellison chronicled their experiences in a new book, Buzz: A Year of Paying Attention.

Buzz Ellison had many problems in elementary school. He could not sit still, and was constantly jumping up and down in class, not paying attention to his teachers, not focusing on the task at hand. As a result, his mother Katherine Ellison says, he was always in trouble.

“His attitude towards school really changed. I think he got bullied both by his peers and his teachers who insisted that he could do things that he really wasn’t capable of doing at that age and remembering things and they gave him a lot of negative feedback,” said Ellison.

Katherine Ellison, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist, says she didn’t understand why he behaved like that, and admits, her behavior was also contributing to the situation.

“I was making things worse often by being anxious or being impatient or not understanding him. I realized at some point that I really hadn’t hugged him in a while. I wasn’t smiling when he came into the room because we were having such a hard time,” recalled Ellison.

Buzz was diagnosed with ADHD when he was nine. And, like many parents of children with ADHD, Ellison learned she had the disorder as well. She was in her late 40s.

“It was a great relief to actually get a diagnosis, because I had spent a lifetime really wondering what was going on and why I seem to be different from so many other people I knew,” Ellison noted. “I, like many people with ADD, had a rollercoaster of a life. For instance, I got sued for $11 million for a reporting error that I made in one of my first years as a newspaper reporter. And two years later, I won a Pulitzer Prize. So these are the kinds of things that often happen when you got this disorder; you’re capable of really amazing things and very humiliating, terrible things.”

Ellison and Buzz decided to work together to deal with their disorder and write a book about their experience.

“My son and I started out by writing a contract together, which was terrific because it changed the perspective from being a shameful problem that we had to a joint business project,” explained Ellison. “I also knew that he would cooperate with me. He wanted a percentage of the profits from the book. I was willing to do that because all of a sudden we’re partners rather than antagonists.”

Mother and son delved into the world of ADHD for a year, researching various remedies, specialists and alternative therapies for treatment.

“The two of us spent a lot of time going to neuro-feedback sessions, a process that’s a kind of bio-feedback for the brain where you’re actually conditioning your brain with the help of computers to slow down, become more calm and focused,” said Ellison. “We tried meditation. We both really focused on getting aerobic exercise and we got counseling. And all of these things helped.”

Ellison and Buzz also tried prescription drugs, which doctors often recommend to help youngsters cope with the symptoms of ADHD.

“I was completely against medication,” recalled Ellison. “I thought kids are being over-medicated, which they are, but it turns out that many kids are not getting the help they need. I want to really make clear that I don’t believe meds alone or meds for life are good strategies. And I think that it must be part of a more comprehensive approach.”

Although ADHD is an increasingly common diagnosis, there are many misconceptions about it.

“One of the biggest misconceptions is parents think that this is their fault,” said Peter Levine, a pediatrician in California, who specializes in treating children with ADHD. “Other parents will blame them for it because they see the way these kids acting and they will say, ‘What’s wrong with you? Why can’t you control your child?’ So parents will blame themselves. Another misconception is that the child really is not trying, because oftentimes these kids are trying harder than other kids to control their behaviors. That leads to a lot of frustrations.”

Levine says the first step in dealing with ADHD is getting the facts straight.

“In America, the diagnosis rate in children generally is quoted in the range of about 3 to 7 percent of children,” noted Levine. “It’s more common in boys, by about three to one. This is a highly inheritable disorder. They can’t get over ADHD. I mean it’s not something that you can make go away. As many as two-third of the children who have problems with ADHD will have difficulties as adults. You can’t cure it. You have to find ways of coping with it.”
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One of the most effective ways to do that, he says, is changing ones parenting style. That’s what Katherine Ellison did. She says she is now paying more attention to her son, spending more quality time with him, being less judgmental and giving him more positive feedback. And Buzz is responding with fewer outbursts at home and at school, more focus on doing his school work and a new interest in playing tennis.

Doping or Diet? ADHD Might Be Easily Conquered By Good Food

Along with autism, many people (experts and parents alike) think they know a thing or two about Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Some will even insist that they know what causes it and how to cure ADHD, which is a developmental disorder characterized by hyperactivity and attentional problems that arise in young children, but can follow them throughout their adult life. But at this point, despite the myriad of theories that swirl around ADHD like a perturbed leaf pile on a blustery afternoon, everything is just conjecture.

However a new theory being floated about holds some true promise to coping and, possibly, dismantling the ADHD cycle. Over five million children ages four to 17 have been diagnosed with ADHD (about ten percent of the children in the U.S.), so a viable solution to this vexing problem is welcome news, especially if the treatment is attainable for all. Dr. Lidy Pelsser of the ADHD Research Centre in the Netherlands, and lead author of a study on food and ADHD, holds true to the idea that ADHD is assuredly easy enough to regulate through a particular, but not unreasonable, diet. As reported in the British journal The Lancet this past February, it was discovered with a restricted diet alone, many children experienced a significant reduction in ADHD symptoms. Pelsser insists that 64 percent of children diagnosed with ADHD are actually experiencing a hypersensitivity to food.

For those that are curious, the diet that Pelsser is advocating is hardly challenging or even expensive. The fairly strict diet utilized in the study consisted of water, rice, turkey, lamb, lettuce, carrots, pears and other hypoallergenic foods – all of which were free of additives, preservatives, or artificial ingredients. According to author Kristin Wartman, writing for the website Civil Eats, There are a multitude of credible scientific studies to indicate that diet plays a large role in the development of ADHD. One study found that the depletion of zinc and copper in children was more prevalent in children with ADHD. Another study found that one particular dye acts as a “central excitatory agent able to induce hyperkinetic behavior.” And yet another study suggests that the combination of various common food additives appears to have a neurotoxic effect—pointing to the important fact that while low levels of individual food additives may be regarded as safe for human consumption, we must also consider the combined effects of the vast array of food additives that are now prevalent in our food supply.

To be clear, Pelsser, and advocates of her findings, are not insisting that drugs like Ritalin, commonly used to treat ADHD, should be wholly dismissed in favor of a few turkey legs and a serving of salad. But modifying a child’s diet should be the first measure taken in dealing with an ADHD diagnosis or symptoms. Some children may not respond at all to the elimination diet, but according to this new data, many will.

Do you think it is enough to change up a child’s diet, eliminating questionable foods and introducing an array of whole foods, or do you think ADHD is a serious disorder that should only be dealt with using psychopharmacology? Is diet really the link to many developmental disorders, not just ADHD?
Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, N.Y. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.

Corpus Christi children at forefront of class-action lawsuit targeting foster care system

The state foster care system puts children in harm’s way, mismanages their health care and shuffles them from one location to the next, a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Corpus Christi says.

Two Corpus Christi children are at the forefront of the federal class-action lawsuit that asks for sweeping reforms of the state’s child welfare program, the Department of Family Protective Services. The case, M.D. vs. Perry, names Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Thomas Suehs, executive commissioner of the Health and Human Services Commission; and Anne Heiligenstein, Texas Department of Family and Protective Services commissioner, as defendants.

In a prepared statement, Heiligenstein rejected the lawsuit’s claims of widespread problems and highlighted recent improvements the department has made, including $1 billion in additional funding during the last several years.

“We’re on the right path and will continue to do everything we can to protect Texas children, but I worry that a lawsuit like this will take critical time and resources away from the very children it presumes to help,” she said.

The Corpus Christi children’s stories, and those of seven other children the state shuffled between foster homes, health care facilities and case workers, were highlighted in the lawsuit filed by Children’s Rights, a national child advocacy group based in New York.

The situations described in the lawsuit paint a picture of a system that places children in inappropriate institutions, ignores their mental health needs, overmedicates them and doesn’t look for permanent homes.

“Once children cross the line into permanent foster care, the state essentially gives up on their prospects for ever leaving state custody with permanent families of their own,” said Marcia Robinson Lowry, executive director of Children’s Rights.

One Corpus Christi 14-year-old, identified as M.D., grew up in Corpus Christi and was first placed in state custody when she was 8 years old. The state first placed her in her aunt and uncle’s custody, but she was sexually assaulted by a cousin and removed from that home.

As a 10-year-old, she moved through three foster homes in six months and eventually moved to a treatment facility in Victoria, where she became suicidal. The state later moved her to another treatment center outside of Houston and then another center in Denton.

While there, M.D. walked to a nearby retail center and reported that she was raped. The suit claims M.D. wasn’t given counseling but instead was chastised for leaving the facility and sent to a juvenile detention center after a fight at the treatment center.

The girl now is at a therapeutic placement center in San Antonio where she is denied basic privileges.

“She has no visitors. She cannot have any toiletries.” the lawsuit says. “She is warehoused and alone.”

The lawsuit also details the life of a 16-year-old Corpus Christi boy identified as T.C., who has been in the state’s care for eight years. The state has moved T.C. through at least 20 homes and treatment centers, including one home where he stayed only seven days.

He stayed nearly a year at a treatment center in Victoria when he was 9 years old and was sent to seven different psychiatric and behavioral hospitals as far away as Waco and Tyler.

One treatment center where T.C. lived for a year had a history of licensing violations including accusations that staff members beat, chocked, cut and bruised children and children under its care attempted suicide. At one time, T.C. was sent to an adult jail for throwing a rock at an administration building.

T.C. now lives at a treatment center in Greenville, more than 450 miles away from Corpus Christi. Three of his brothers were adopted by a Corpus Christi family, but he has not been able to visit them, a problem the lawsuit says other children also have.

T.C.’s emotional and psychological health has deteriorated while in the state’s care, the lawsuit alleges, and the boy has been diagnosed with ADHD, depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety and Asperger’s syndrome. More than once, T.C. has run away from a treatment center and tried to admit himself to a hospital.

The statement from Heiligenstein highlights changes the state department has made to address the problems.

The state recently reformed its system, increased its funding, decreased workers’ caseloads and is considering more reforms, Heiligenstein’s statement said.

Adoptions have increased by more than 50 percent in the last six years, and placements of foster children with relatives have increased by 38 percent. The use of psychotropic medications has decreased by 31 percent.

The Texas Legislature is considering a proposed redesign of the Texas foster care system. The proposal would provide homes for foster children closer to their communities, minimize the number of placements, keep brothers and sisters together, and provide financial incentives to reward high-quality foster care providers who move children to permanent homes more quickly, according to Heiligenstein’s statement.


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